OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP POWER RANKINGS: NEXT 10
20. Louis Oosthuizen
Never a player to count out in majors, the 7-stroke 2010 blowout U.S. Open winner at St. Andrews, has finished as high as second in all four majors. One of those runner-up finishes was at last year’s PGA Championship, and in his two major starts since, he finished T12 at this year’s Masters, and T16 in last month’s U.S. Open.
Last week’s Scottish Open was scheduled to be Oosthuizen’s first start since the U.S. Open, but he withdrew just before his Round 1 tee time with a neck injury that is not expected to keep him from playing Carnoustie, but it may be worth keeping an eye on.
With five top 20s in his last seven starts, his recent form signals that he could be nearing another week of Open Championship contention.
World Rank: 32nd
2018 Majors: T12 (Masters), T16 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 16, 13, 5, MC, MC, 12, 9
19. Alex Noren
One of Sweden’s best players, Alex Noren has made little noise on the major championship stage in his career, but with both of his career top 10s coming at The Open, the World No. 11 is a player worth keeping a closer eye on this week.
Playing in the U.S. more than he has in the past, the 36-year-old has found himself in deep contention several times this year, finishing T2 at the Farmers Insurance Open after taking Jason Day to six playoff holes , and taking solo-third at both the Honda Classic and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Third-round 77s spoiled otherwise solid performances at both the U.S. Open (T25) and THE PLAYERS Championship (T17), but his spirits should be high coming into Carnoustie after his most recent start, a victory at the European Tour’s French Open, surging ahead of the pack with an incredible weekend.
World Rank: 11th
2018 Majors: MC (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 1, 25, 23, 3, 17, MC, MC
18. Phil Mickelson
Long considered (even by Phil himself) the major he was least likely to win in an inevitable Hall of Fame career, Phil Mickelson has a made a nice living at The Open Championship. The biggest highlight was his surprise victory at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, but he was also in the T2 group at the 2011 Open, and two years ago at Royal Troon (the Henrik Stenson Open), he put together a solo runner-up performance that undoubtedly would have won any other year.
Coming into this year’s edition, the ageless 48-year-old has a lot of reason to have high expectations. He has had a resurgent season, with a win at the WGC-Mexico Championship, his first victory since that 2013 Open, among six top 10s in 17 events. He is second on Tour in strokes gained: putting, and fourth in birdie average.
However, a little of the season luster has worn off as of late. His most recent attempt at winning the U.S. Open and the career grand slam was a bust, as he finished T48 and made tremendous controversy with his bizarre penalty on the 13th green on Saturday, a penalty he has to be getting sick of answering questions about.
In two starts since, he finished T65 in a weak field at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, and missed the cut at last week’s Scottish Open, an event he had played well in the past. If he is going to get off the schneid soon, the major that has suddenly become a favorite could be the perfect place.
World Rank: 20th
2018 Majors: T36 (Masters), T48 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: MC, 65, 48, 12, 13, MC, 5
17. Francesco Molinari
Looking for a hot golfer? Don’t stand too close to Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who has two wins and two runner-ups in his last five starts. One of those wins was at the prestigious BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event, and the other was an 8-stroke romp at the Quicken Loans National.
Long-known as a technician with a stellar iron game, Molinari currently ranks second on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He has a surprisingly poor record in major championships with zero victories and just three top 10s in 35 career major starts, but after a T2 at last year’s PGA Championship, he is looking like he is ready for the hardware.
He has posted two respectable major results in 2018: a T20 at The Masters and a T25 at the U.S. Open.
World Rank: 15th
2018 Majors: T20 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 2, 1, 25, 2, 1, MC, 16
16. Branden Grace
Despite impressively not missing a single cut in 2018, in the U.S. or in Europe, Grace’s year has been pedestrian by his standards, with just two top 10s among 13 PGA Tour starts.
However, the 30-year-old South African came into last year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale similarly, and all he did was shoot a Saturday 62, the single lowest round in major championship history, en route to a T6 finish.
Still looking for his first career major, Grace has been relevant on that stage many times, with five top-6s in majors over the past four seasons. Could it finally be his time? It would fit spectacularly with the recent trend of first-time major winners, which has happened in eight of the past 10 majors.
World Rank: 35th
2018 Majors: T24 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 25, 52, 5, 3, 46, 24, 29
15. Sergio Garcia
It would be really easy to write off Sergio’s chances at Carnoustie this week. He looked amazing from October to March, but his past six PGA Tour results have been ghastly: five missed cuts and a solo-70th.
One of those missed cuts came at a weak-field Texas tournament at a brand-new course where he had been a consultant in the design. The majors have been even worse, with Sergio missing the cut line both times and playing the four rounds in a combined 29-over-par. He appears to have struggled getting his mind straight since that 13 on Thursday’s par-5 15th hole in his Masters Championship defense prodigiously deflated him.
There are good reasons to believe in the 38-year-old World No. 19 this week, though. Sergio has the best course history of anyone in the field who is not a shell of his former self, nearly going wire-to-wire at Carnoustie in 2007, leading the first three rounds before getting bested by Padraig Harrington in a playoff. He is also coming off promising back-to-back starts on the European Tour, a T12 at the BMW International Open, and a T8 at French Open where his third-round 64 was the low round of the week.
His putting has statistically been less of a liability than in most years, and he is actually hitting greens at a higher rate than he did in 2017, where he ranked 8th on Tour in that statistic.
If he can hold things mentally this week, Sergio could finally capture Championship No. 1 in a major he has placed in the top 10 ten times. He certainly should not be overlooked.
World Rank: 19th
2018 Majors: MC (Masters), MC (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 8, 12, MC, MC, 70, MC, MC
14. Jason Day
Similar to Rory McIlroy, Jason Day is an ultimate wild card type coming off a lost season. He may have been miserable in 2017, but the former World No. 1 has bounced back nicely in 2018, winning both the Farmers Insurance Open and the Wells Fargo Championship, in addition to runner-up finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Day seems to be (mostly) Day again, and he has been good enough to reach No. 5 in the current FedExCup Standings, but there are some reasons to be concerned about him for this week.
While his short game has been phenomenal and then some, as he leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: around-the-green AND strokes gained: putting, his iron game is lagging behind, which is why he has not been finishing high more consistently.
The Open is historically worst major anyway, as only one of his 14 career top 10s in majors came in the event (T4, 2015). He has the skillset to come away from Carnoustie with career major No. 2, but in an event that is less about scoring and more about bogey avoidance, similar to the U.S. Open and Shinnecock Hills, where he missed the cut, it becomes hard to put TOO much into his chances.
World Rank: 9th
2018 Majors: T20 (Masters), MC (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 12, MC, 44, 5, 1, 20, 36
13. Jordan Spieth
The defending Open Champion put on an inspiring back nine performance last year at Royal Birkdale, bouncing back from an embarrassing, extended disaster on the 13th hole which caused him to lose his lead, and playing the next four holes in 5-under par to win by three strokes. It was the third career major for Spieth, who at 23 years of age, became just the second player to win three legs of the grand slam before turning 24 (Nicklaus).
As amazing of a victory as it was, it was more of what we already had come to expect from the exceptional Texan. What is surprising, however, is that we are sitting here one year later, and he has not won on Tour again. Instead of asking ourselves how many of these things Spieth is going to win, we are wondering what is wrong with him. His 2018 season pales in comparison to his past few seasons. He has no wins, and just four top 10s in 17 events.
So, what has been the problem? Short answer: putting yips. For most of the season, he has been himself tee-to-green, but is stuck in his own mind on the greens, struggling badly in a part of his game where he used to flourish.
Currently mired in the worst slump of his career from a results perspective (no top 20s and three missed cuts in his last seven starts), Spieth is suddenly has a three-start streak of finishing in the positive in strokes gained: putting, but suddenly, everything else has gotten worse. What Spieth needs fixed could take time.
Still, it is a major and it’s Jordan Spieth. We know he can put it all together any week and make more major magic happen. He finished solo-third at The Masters without his entire arsenal, and nobody would be shocked if the World No. 6 did it again this week at Carnoustie.
World Rank: 6th
2018 Majors: 3rd (Masters), MC (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 42, MC, MC, 32, 21, 41, 3
12. Tiger Woods
The most popular player in the history of golf will be giving The Open Championship a huge boost in viewership this week, as the finally-healthy Tiger Woods has committed to playing the event for the first time in three years.
Three of his 14 career major championship victories have come at The Open, in addition to six other top 10s. Of course, nobody has any trouble remember how great Tiger Woods was, but the question now surrounds how good he can still be. The 42-year-old has now hit more than ten years without a major victory, something that seemed unfathomable in his prime.
Perhaps the most shocking current Tiger fact is that on the list of Open exemptions, only one number is listed after his name, a “1” for being a former champion under the age of 60.
Back in the spotlight after missing all of 2017 rehabbing his notoriously difficult back, Tiger has had some highlights, even contending in two March events, but some of the celebration proved to be premature when he failed to be relevant at either major, finishing T23 at The Masters and missing the cut in a poor U.S. Open effort.
His iron game is still clicking and his driving has improved from early in the year, but his putting has been a dumpster fire as of late. If the flat stick can be anywhere near average this week, however, as it was in a T4 finish at the Quicken Loans National two weeks ago, he could very well create the story that every media outlet is dying to report.
World Rank: 71st
2018 Majors: T32 (Masters), MC (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 4, MC, 23, 11, 55, 32, 5
11. Patrick Reed
Regardless of what happens to Reed this week at Carnoustie, and for the rest of the season, 2018 will be considered a banner year, with the obvious highlight being his breakthrough major victory at The Masters. Refusing to get complacent after the victory, Reed also got into the mix at Shinnecock Hills, finishing solo-fourth at the U.S. Open.
Aside from a hot start at Royal Troon in 2016, Reed has been quiet in this event, but he did get in some links-style competition in when he entered last week’s European Tour event, the Scottish Open, finishing T23 off the strength of four sub-70 rounds.
He might not be THE man to beat this week the way he will be for the American team at September’s Ryder Cup, but without a ton to prove, the pressure will be mostly off.
World Rank: 12th
2018 Majors: 1st (Masters), 4th (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 23, MC, 4, 29, 41, 8, 1
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